Noel's done some pretty heavy lifting this week---first passing along Daniel Agger's brutally honest assessment of the Swansea performance, then news of Luis Suarez opening up about his racism row with Patrice Evra, followed by a deconstruction of Swansea's dominance and a frank appraisal of success of the "Buy British" approach, and, finally, where Steven Gerrard's groin fits with England's future. All worthy of focus of course, but nearly all were accompanied by a reference to self-harm, which we sort of try to discourage.
So here's a ray of sunshine to try to to keep you from paper-cutting yourself too much---the ten best moments of the early season.
10. Jordan Henderson's Goal and Performance Against Bolton
The early going wasn't too kind to Jordan Henderson, who was immediately slotted ahead of Dirk Kuyt on the right side of midfield and expected to produce. His performances against Valencia in the preseason, and then Sunderland and Arsenal in league, betrayed the trust that Kenny Dalglish had apparently placed in him.
But we finally saw a prolonged glimpse of potential against Bolton, a match in which he was composed, confident, and effective. His goal may have been the product of some luck, but it was a deserved payoff for a player who was (and continues to be) under scrutiny for the ease with which he glided into first-team football.
9. Andy Carroll On the Stroke of Halftime At West Brom
This one's more about the build-up than the finish, with Lucas playing a perfect ball up to Luis Suarez on the right flank. Suarez plays it to a streaking Carroll with his first touch, and while the knock-on from the front man seems to waste the chance, he expertly flicks it past Ben Foster with his left foot. For a side that's had so much difficulty adding to a lead, added to the fact that it was in the face of the Hodgepocalypse, this one was terrific (2:37 into the video below).
8. Craig Bellamy Gets His Second First Liverpool Goal
The Welshman's return to Liverpool was met with excitement that the club had not only another forward man with pace, but one whose will to drive a side forward is unparalleled. We maybe haven't seen as much as we'd like from Bellamy so far, but what we have seen has more than justified the decision to bring him back. He made a huge contribution in the derby win, but his performance against Brighton was the first time we were reminded of what he brings. The goal was great, but the free kick might have been more impressive, even if it didn't go in.
7. Steven Gerrard's Return
This one's more symbolic than anything else, and while the symbolism's damaged a bit by the fact that he's out again, the captain was able to remind us of his influence on the squad almost immediately. Fifteen minutes against Brighton in the League Cup wouldn't typically set hearts alight, but seeing him back on the pitch was a welcomed sight. It didn't hurt that he instantly got himself in the thick of things, barging around and telling Michael Oliver to fuck off within minutes of replacing Luis Suarez. Hopefully we don't have to wait too much longer to see him back in the starting eleven, and that we don't have to celebrate many more returns after lengthy layoffs.
6. First Win at the Emirates in...Ever
For most of the match it seemed that Liverpool were destined to draw an Arsenal side that fought valiantly but were clearly struggling. The introductions of Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles changed all that, though, as the visitors were sparked by the duo's 71st minute addition. The opener was calamitous from an Arsenal perspective, but Suarez and Meireles forced the hosts' hand with a clever one-two on the edge of the area. And the second was more of the same, this time with Lucas starting the move by pushing wide to Meireles, who rolled across to Suarez in front of an empty net.
5. Luis Suarez Makes Life Hard for Himself, Scores Anyway
If there's one phrase we'll be happy to see the back of, it's "taking chances." With much of the recent narrative focused on Liverpool's profligacy, it's easy to overlook the instances in which chances were taken with style, and the match winner against Wolves is as good an example as any. Enrique's long ball over the top freed up Luis Suarez on the break, but he's quickly closed down by Christophe Berra and Roger Johnson. He didn't seem to have much on the near side, but with a clever move in and out, he's able to blast a left-footed effort past Wayne Hennessey. A period of relative frustration would follow for the Uruguayan, although when it ended it would be one of the early contenders for goal of the season.
4. José Enrique Dominates West Brom, Everyone Else in the League
We've been man-crushing on José Enrique since the season opener against Sunderland, and we're never going to apologize for it. He's been terrific at a position where Liverpool have been decidedly not terrific; whether it was down to lack of quality or fitness, the club haven't had a reliable left-back in what seems like forever. Enrique's arrival changed all that, and what's so refreshing is that none of us really expected it. We knew the stats were impressive, and those who had watched him at Newcastle felt he had real ability, but I don't know that any of us could have predicted just how important he's become.
He dominates West Brom in the second half below, which is more status quo than anything else.
3. Steven Gerrard Puts Liverpool Ahead Against United
We'd gotten increasingly large tastes of Gerrard since he marked his return at Brighton, but United at Anfield was the first occasion of the season that the captain made a start. He wasn't able to exert much influence on the match, as a crowded midfield left little room for him to get free. But after Charlie Adam drew a dubious foul on Rio Ferdinand in the 68th minute, Gerrard stepped up and delivered his first goal of the season, curling one around the wall through a gap left by Ryan Giggs. The late equalizer and stunning performance of David De Gea left the points shared, but Liverpool were riding high after it looked like they'd get their fourth consecutive win over United at Anfield.
2. Andy Carroll Gets the Winner Against Everton
This one will mostly be remembered for the sending off of Jack Rodwell, but Liverpool's opening goal was outstanding. Craig Bellamy replaced Stewart Downing on 67 minutes, with the Englishman on the front end of what's proven to be a difficult patch. The Welshman linked up with José Enrique instantly, streaking down the left and causing a threat where there'd previously been no spark. It was this linking play that led to the winner, with Bellamy laying off for Enrique, and the resulting cross narrowly missing Dirk Kuyt on its way to Carroll in the center. He made no mistake on the half volley, and it was a fantastic moment for a player that's been the subject of so much criticism.
1. Luis Suarez Scores the Leveler at Stoke
Look, you can get all high and mighty about how pathetic it is that Liverpool are taking the League Cup so seriously, but you're mostly doing that because your own attempts at high-level athletics failed miserably after nearly strangling to death on your own jock strap. You can also criticize or boo Luis Suarez, like the neanderthals at Britannia did as they took a break from gnawing on their squirrel kabobs, but that's mostly indicative of the lemming mentality that's championed by Martin Samuel and the space where his neck used to be.
But come on, the brilliance here is undeniable. It's a combination of a silly amount of skill and catharsis, as he'd hit posts, bars, and bears in the weeks leading up to the fourth round victory but couldn't convert a number of chances that could have seen Liverpool get all three points against United and Norwich. There's a place for analysis and chalkboards, and then there's moments that really just call for HOLY SHIT DID HE JUST DO THAT?!?